Sunday, January 22, 2012

Resentment

Yesterday I took my mom grocery shopping. Her husband's down in Costa Rica for a week, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, and the friend who was going to come stay with her was prevented from coming by the winter storms. My mom is doing quite well: I offered to simply shop for her, but she was quite up to making the shopping trip, and the cart served quite well as a walker. I just walked along beside her, chatting occasionally, making sure no one jostled her. It was easy.

Spending that much time with my mother – who is a lovely and un-difficult person, let me hasten to say – exhausts me, in prospect and in reality. Our relationship is not an easy one, not for me, at any rate. I spent the morning in trepidation and the afternoon in exhaustion. Humiliating, but there it is. And I had so been looking forward to this weekend as a weekend of recovery. Instead I read my Curzon mystery, and ate and ate and ate – leftover rich Chinese food, cake, whatever I could get my hands on. A waste of a day. And as the day dwindled into evening I noted, with self-loathing, that my plan for getting regular exercise again was going to go by the boards. And that I had left the dishes undone. Everything I looked at or thought about was a reminder of some failure or other, and there wasn't enough food in the world to insulate myself from it.

I stood at the sink – having ascertained that no, there was no ice cream in the house, and watching the urge to get more duel with the reluctance to do something so fraught with initiative and self-reliance as going to the store myself – and, leaning there like a sick man, breathed, and watched my breath. Inchoate resentments against my family rose around me, like the steam from boiling pasta. I have been surrounded all my life, they said – suddenly and surprisingly coalescing into words – by people whose egos have depended upon my continual failure.

Now that, of course, was absurd, a classic instance of depressive thinking, a billow of nonsense tethered to a couple rusty bolts of half-truth. I loathed myself all the more for entertaining it.

But instead of dropping it, I played what-if with it. And what if it were true? What then? What would it mean? What would be the appropriate response?

The answer came at once: the appropriate response would be to say the hell with it, I'm going to succeed in spite of them. I'm going to succeed to spite them, as a matter of fact. I'm going to succeed and rub their faces in it.

So I washed the dishes, and then I got on the stuck-bike followed out my exercise plan. And so I ended the day.

11 comments:

Zhoen said...

You've mentioned forgiveness lately. Have you forgiven yourself? Really, daily, deep in your heart, forgiven yourself for your human failings, so that you can start every day fresh and innocent?

Dale said...

Possibly not, because I can't make that mean anything to myself.

rbarenblat said...

There's much in this post to which I can relate. Especially the kind of exhaustion which can come of spending time in a relationship which is difficult. Oh, I know that one well.

The end of the post makes me beam, though. :-)

{{{you}}}

Kathleen said...

Yay for you. I see we have some similar things on our minds. I am impressed by your honesty and action.

am said...

Good to hear that yesterday ended with insight about failure and success! What you describe is familiar to me, too.

My mother died in 1994, but I clearly remember one time when she was visiting during the years when my relationship with her was at its most difficult. I was cutting up some raw broccoli and found myself compulsively putting a piece of raw broccoli in my mouth. I don't especially like raw broccoli. The reflex of putting something in my mouth was unconscious. In that moment, I knew that I wasn't experiencing hunger. It was that I was experiencing anger. I took the piece of broccoli out of my mouth in amazement and threw it away. During those years that I suffered from bulimia, I rarely experienced anger but I experienced unrelenting hunger instead.

With all the snow and ice up here in Bellingham in the past week, I suddenly was hungrier than usual. The generous amount of food I always eat just didn't feel like enough. It took me a few days to realize that the hungry feeling was actually anger at being trapped at home during the the snow storm. Anger has more intense energy in it than depression or resentment. Once I realized what was going on with me, I experienced relief that what I was feeling was anger, and that it was okay to feel angry, and then instantly, I didn't feel so hungry or angry and felt my vitality returning!

Lucy said...

Oh god I remember my mum using the supermarket trolley as a walker!

Action, however small, so often does the trick. Knowing when and how to act and when to sit still is a charism of discernment!

Beats me why and how on earth you see yourself as a failure. But then does anyone anywhere see anyone else as a failure, or is it only ever a judgement we reserve for ourselves?

I'm off to perform an action...

marly youmans said...

Less food, more chocolate (more than mere food)?

You have inspired me to go rebound and do my weights...

And to look for your book, which some momentarily-tidy madman moved from its appointed place while taking down the Christmas tree! The problem with too many books is all the camouflage everywhere...

There are many difficult things I only write about in a deep, submerged way. I find that it does not help me to write about them openly and frankly, but that it does help me to transform and make something shapely of them. There is no merit in one way over another. I don't even know why I am telling you this!

The slodge of January is upon us--a slough of despond (and here, dirty snow.)

Natalie said...

Oh yes! I identify with all that you wrote in this post, Dale, on more levels than I can possibly express.
Proof - if proof is needed - that baring one's soul can be useful not only to one's self but to others who are listening.

Brenda Clews said...

'There are so many people who will tell you you can't. What you've got to do is turn around and say "watch me."" I keep it hidden under my desk matte. But, shhh.

butuki said...

It's insidious, isn' it, this seeping of self-defamation and cowering at the sight of necessities to be done ("bewegen"... a word I can't translate into English... do you know of a substitute?). Why is it that healthy movement is so hard to get moving, whereas the unhealthy things seem to move your hands involuntarily? I know, as a diabetic, that I should stay away from carbs, but it is so easy to pick up that roll of bread, whereas making a salad seems like mental torture... until I encounter how bad I feel afterwards.

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